Newly appointed Beyond Blue chair Julia Gillard is already embroiled in controversy.
Discussing Donald Trump’s Twitter habits on ABC’s Lateline, Gillard made the claim that, due to the President’s behaviour on social media, a diagnosis of mental illness would “be in the dialogue”. Her claim was prefaced with a caution that she did not wish to see mental illness “being thrown around as an insult”. However, it is difficult to see how her assessment of Trump was anything short of an insult. With just two days experience as the chair of Beyond Blue, it is hard to believe that Gillard’s claim was coming from a place of qualified concern.
If Gillard was truly concerned about mental health she would have left this question of the President’s mental health to the professionals. It is extremely demeaning for any person to make a sweeping assessment of someone’s mental health, especially on that of the President.
By treating President Trump like some sort of patient who can just be diagnosed at whim based on his behaviour on Twitter, Gillard trivialises the reality of mental illness. Her assessment is unqualified, unwarranted and unbecoming of her position with Beyond Blue.
It may be the case that this claim is coming from some delusion of grandeur, arrogance, or perhaps a still simmering bitterness that her political ally Clinton, suffered such a devastating defeat to Trump. Gillard was not shy about showing her support for Clinton during the 2016 campaign but regardless this is not the behaviour one would expect from the head of such a prominent mental health organisation.
Immediately following her assessment of Trump’s mental health, Gillard is questioned about her own mental health during her time in public life. She lamented how she struggled with the criticism at times and needed a way to ensure that she safeguarded her own mental health.
If Gillard can recognise the strains and stresses that public life can place on mental health, why can she not appreciate that diagnosing the President with mental illness may not be appropriate? Is it perhaps that, as was the case with her political career, she is unable to look beyond herself?
Julia needs to step up to this position with a degree of professionalism and impartiality or quite simply, step down. Keep your politics out of mental health.
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